“Are you going to tell me what’s wrong?”
“It’s a ripped wing.”
“No, not the damn butterfly, Gracie. You. What’s wrong with you.”
A faint rustle in the shoe box moves Gracie’s attention from the computer screen. She peers in. One burnt orange wing beats frantically against the side.
“No, no, pretty girl. Shhhh,” she whispers into the box. Then to her husband, “You’ve startled her. She needs a calm environment.” She hums until its wings settle down into a slow, rhythmic pulse. It crawls onto the mushy pear she’s given it to eat. Satisfied, she goes back to the screen.
Hal throws up his hands and leaves her.
Dusk arrives behind the closed bedroom blinds. Gracie has amassed the needed supplies and begins the operation. Leaving the lights dim and Clair de Lune playing in the background, she pinches the wings together, lifts the creature from the box and pins her down on a towel with a looped wire hanger around her head, thorax and abdomen.
“Comfy dear?” She carefully fans out the ripped forewing. “Don’t worry, this won’t hurt a bit. Scary, though. I know. You don’t know what’s happening, what I’m doing to your body. Sometimes I wonder if that’s better…ignorance.” Clipping a tiny rectangle from cardstock, she measures it against the tear, trims it a bit smaller. “There, that should do it.” With a toothpick, she carefully spreads adhesive on the makeshift bandage. While she waits for it to dry, she watches the tiny legs twitch, the antennae swim in the air.
“Fascinating creature, you are. Filled with poison and yet fragile, fragile as the ones who come to eat you and die.” Gracie squeezes her eyes closed so as not to flood her patient. “Okay,” she wipes at her cheeks and straightens her back. “Ready for phase two.”
Making sure the black veins line up, she pinches the tiny rectangle with tweezers and positions it over the tear. This takes a few attempts and she has to hold her breath to keep her hand from shaking.
“I believe you will survive,” she whispers. Her attention wanders to her own hand; skin as thin as the butterfly’s wing, puffy blue veins like ropes running its length. “Such a short journey. We must…,” she takes in a breath. “Yes! That’s it. You must finish your journey! No reason for you to sit around this house. Oh, but it’s probably too cold for you now.” She lifts the wire hanger and encourages the monarch to turn over. “Well, go on. They should work now.” The wings shutter once, sweep up and down. Once. Then twice. Then she is airborne.
“Yes!” Gracie claps, gray eyes glistening. She watches the creature flutter around the room for a few minutes, landing on her pink rose bed spread. “Haldon!”
Hal rushes into the room, one hand on his chest, wide eyes darting about.
“What’s wrong?” Gracie asks, when she sees his face.
“What’s wrong?” he drops his hand to his hip. “What do you mean what’s wrong? You’re the one who yelled for me.”
“Oh,” She ignores his tone. Behind the anger is fear, she knows. She also knows it is better he doesn’t know exactly what he has to fear. Like the butterfly. Ignorance is a gift.
“Will you drive me to that truck stop on Central Avenue?”
“Yeah, that’s the one.”
His shoulders slump. He looks for a moment like he is going to ask her why, but then he just shakes his head. “Yes, Grace. If it will make you happy, I’ll drive you to the truck stop.”
Three days later, she gets the call.
“Hi, is this Miss Grace Adams?”
“Hey, this is Mac Barnes…the truckdriver?” He pauses. He can’t see the hope welling up in her swollen eyes, the Kleenex clutched to her mouth. “Well, I ah, just called to give you the good news.”
Gracie exhales. Her lungs ache like she’s been holding her breath for three days.
“She made it to Florida?”
“Yep. Dropped her off in a place with lots of wild flowers near Ocala. I watched her fly off. She’s good. Should be able to migrate with the rest of ‘em. That’s something, huh?”
“Oh, thank you, Mac. Thank you for giving her a ride.”
“No problem. You take care now.”
Gracie hangs up and looks over at her husband of thirty years. It’s time. She can face it now. Now that she remembers how to hope for the impossible.
“Hal,” she slips her hand into his and braces herself for the flood of his grief. She holds onto the image of the broken butterfly now hundreds of miles away, continuing on her journey. “Dr. Brennan has given me three months. It’s cancer.”
(based on a true tale of butterfly heroes)
Such a beautifully written story!
I was intrigued by where you were headed and loved the idea of a broken butterfly continuing on her journey against all odds.
And giving hope to a cancer patient who, despite the 3-month death sentence– may find her own miracle.
Whoa…I was not expecting that ending. Beautifully written!
Oh, dang!! I’m crying! What a beautifully told, tender story. I loved all of it, but in particular the image of a truck driver named Mac transporting a butterfly across the country. It’s a hopeful story on many levels. Thanks so much for sharing it.
I don’t think I’ve made someone cry before, thanks Olivia! 🙂 (and sorry)
Touching imagery, poignant but heartwarming ending.
Really thought Gracie was crazy, and it’s amazing how you were able to make me feel sad at first, then happy for her when she delivers the news. In a couple of paragraphs you managed to remind me of life’s most valuable lesson.
Also love the butterfly image and how it represents her and her husband’s life. Excellently written, can’t wait until next week 😉
Gracie is only as sane as the rest of us…ahem.
Beautiful, beautiful story Shannon. I thought Gracie was crazy too in the beginning. Wonderful job of expressing all the emotion she was holding inside.
I didn’t think she was crazy I’ve actually nursed a broken monarch back to health. :0)
Beautiful tale, beautiful imagery. Love the idea of cross country shipping the little thing so she could continue her journey.
Found myself hoping at the end that Gracie’s journey is also filled with things that transport her.
lovely flash Shannon.
Oh, that’s great, Karen! I actually found a video online showing how to do it. I will definitely try it if I get the opportunity.
Wow. Week in and week out you do it over and over. What a punch. I expected divorce. This was really great.
Shannon..this is so cool on so many levels. first off the delicate and delicious narrative of the wing repair is meticulous, delicate as the operation itself and flawless. connecting this with the payoff is just a masterstroke. your best work that I’ve read. enjoyed it tremendously!
Awe, thanks Michael!
Yes, it was wonderful. So inventive, and then so unexpected.
Wow, what a beautiful, moving story. I love how the delicate and broken butterfly acts as a metaphor for the narrator. I also love image of the delicate repair to its wings.
Beautiful metaphor. I am such a fan of yours! I live in southern texas, the butterflies are migrating right now, so this story really touched me.
I saw one on the beach here, too and read about them, they’re really fascinating. Glad you could relate so closely to the butterfly (not the protag!)
And there I was thinking that Gracie was lacing the butterfly with poison to do something unwifely to Hal! I am reading too many genre stories, apparently! A very delicate story in the end. Lovely work again, as always, Shannon.
Take it from a women who watched the Great Monarch Migration each year..and reflects on my life, past and future.. I just loved this story as it touched my very soul.. She did not have to say one thing.. Hope is always in the wings..
“Hope is Always in the Wings” That would have made a better title. 🙂
Awww, very sweet – sad, but in a touching way.
And best truck driver ever!
Very nice story. Such a happy tale of butterfly survival ended by such tragedy. You did a great job writing this.
This was really sweet. Well done.
Very interesting. I love her focus, her dedication to the butterfly with the knowledge — and Hal’s demanding curiosity — until she knows the butterfly is safe. And gaining strength from the butterfly’s struggle to simply announce to her husband, and face her own struggle.
Thoughtful and delivered very well.
Did I leave a comment here that you deleted? I’d swear I got to this one.
Kudos on it.